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Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig

Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St., Suite 300, Milwaukee, WI 53204.

New $0 Deductible Health Plans Introduced

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Friday, 30 September 2016
in Wisconsin

healthcareNew health insurance plans offer relief from runaway pharmaceutical prices. Wisconsin health consumers will save over $209 million.


WISCONSIN - At news conferences in four cities yesterday Citizen Action of Wisconsin announced that for 2017 some major insurance carriers in Wisconsin will be offering new health plans designed by the federal government to provide immediate relief from skyrocketing prescription drug prices and other medical costs. The announcement took place in Appleton, Wausau, Milwaukee, and Madison.

Deductibles jumped 40% this year in Wisconsin, yet the Walker Administration has refused to take any meaningful steps to address high medical prices. To fill the gap, advocates and state legislators took matters into their own hands by directly lobbying Wisconsin health insurance companies to adopt new Federal plans designed to combat high deductibles.

The savings generated because of the introduction of these new plans are dramatic. The average health consumer purchasing insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace stands to save $1,462 Rx deductibles and $3,482 on other high value medical services. Overall Citizen Action of Wisconsin estimates the new plans will save Wisconsin health consumers over $209 million per year in lower deductibles.

At the Capitol news conference Senator Jon Erpenbach and Representative Melissa Sargent represented Democratic legislators who joined Citizen Action in asking Wisconsin health insurers to offer “Low Out-of- Pocket” plans.

These new health plans will have the following common features:

  • $0 deductibles for prescription drugs (generic, brand name and specialty)

  • $0 deductible for Primary Care Visits to Treat an Injury or Illness

  • $0 deductible for Specialist Visits

  • $0 deductible for Mental/Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Outpatient

  • Manageable co-pays that do not differ company to company.

Four companies have so far confirmed to Citizen Action their intention to introduce ”Low Out-of-Pocket” health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace for 2017.

  1. Molina Healthcare

  2. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative

  3. Group Health Cooperative of South Central WI

  4. Network Health

“The introduction of new cost saving health plans in Wisconsin shows it is possible to use the tools provided by the health care reform law to make tangible progress on medical and prescription drug affordability,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Even more progress on skyrocketing health care costs would be possible if Governor Walker and conservatives in the State Legislature would cease their efforts to sabotage health reform, and join health advocates in working to guaranteed quality affordable health care in Wisconsin.”

Chart:

Average Current 2016 Deductibles by County (reduced to $0 for some services in “Low Out of Pocket” Health Plans)

Counties With Plans

Average Rx Deductible*

Average Medical Deductible*

42 County Average**

$1,462/year

$3,482/year

Brown County

$1,464

$3,422

Dane County

$634

$3,311

Kenosha County

$1,480

$3,580

Manitowoc County

$1,464

$3,422

Marathon County

$1,284

$3,457

Milwaukee County

$1,952

$3,702

Oneida County

$1,284

$3,457

Outagamie County

$1,781

$3,521

Racine County

$1,952

$3,702

Rock County

$618

$3,266

Shawano County

$1,346

$3,363

Sheboygan County

$1,464

$3,422

Waukesha County

$1,562

$3,404

Winnebago County

$2,023

$3,523

Wood County

$1,284

$3,457

* - Average deductible based on all silver plans available in county 2016 individual market without cost sharing

** - 42 county weighted average shows what the average resident in these 42 counties that will feature Low Out-of-Pocket health plans currently see for deductibles. Weighted by total enrollment.

More information on the features of the new health plans, and on savings in each Wisconsin County, can be found here.

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Ron Johnson Senate Hearing Will Showcase Sabotage of Affordable Health Care

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 15 September 2016
in Wisconsin

ron-johnsonWitnesses include Walker Administration insurance bureaucrat who is part of efforts to undermine access to affordable health care in Wisconsin.


WASHINGTON, DC - This morning Senator Ron Johnson, Chair of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on the state of health insurance markets. Observers of health policy expect the hearing to try and build support for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Senator Johnson, an arch opponent of guaranteed affordable health care, is expected to use the hearing to advance his desire to return to the days when insurance companies profited through discrimination based on preexisting conditions, age, and gender. Johnson will likely claim that big for profit insurance companies pulling out of ACA marketplaces is a reason to repeal health care reform, rather than for holding those highly profitable corporations accountable. At least one health insurance company is pulling out in retaliation for the Obama Administration enforcement of the nation’s antitrust laws.

One of the challenges in implementing the ACA continues to be conservative state officials who are willing to use their power to undermine access to affordable health care for their own constituents. These actions include rejecting coverage for low income residents and enabling for profit insurance companies to continue to profit by selling policies to healthy people and avoiding those with health conditions.

The first witness on Sen. Johnson’s hearing notice is Wisconsin Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske, who had been one of the leaders in Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to sabotage the health care reform law.

The record of actions the Walker Administration is long and troubling. Here is a sampling:

  • The Walker Administration made Wisconsin the only state in the Great Lakes region to reject enhanced Medicaid dollars, kicking 77,000 people off the state’s BadgerCare program. New research shows that states like Wisconsin who refused Medicaid dollars forced more people with health conditions onto the ACA marketplace, increasing premiums by about 7%.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance commissioner sought a waiver from the rule that health insurance companies spend at least 80% of premiums on medical care, the so called 80/20 rule.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner allowed health insurance corporations to game the system by allowing the continued sale of substandard lemon plans, which according to research by Milliman, Academy of Actuaries, and Rand Corporation, increase ACA marketplace premiums by up to 10% by allowing insurance companies to continue to cherry pick healthier customers. There are as many as 45,000 Wisconsinites on these so-called transitional plans. These skimpy plans also are dangerous for customers who face serious medical conditions.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance commissioner has been extremely lax on health insurance rate review, failing to find a single health insurance industry rate request to be excessive in 5 years. The Walker Administration has been an advocate of “file and use,” strongly opposing legislation that would require the health insurance corporations to prove rate increases are justified. More vigorous rate review has reduced premiums in other states.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner put unnecessary and burdensome restrictions on health insurance navigators not required by federal law, of the kind that were thrown out by a federal court in Missouri. This likely raised premiums by reducing enrollment in ACA marketplace plans.

It is deeply troubling that conservative politicians like Senator Johnson see the continued efforts of the big health insurance corporations to deny coverage to people with health conditions as an opportunity to undermine health reform. Now that big insurance is working actively to sabotage a system designed to guarantee them customers, it is long overdue that we return to the idea of robust public option. A public option would hold big health insurance accountable by giving health consumers a choice and taking away their leverage to abandon whole parts of the country just to jack up their already swelling profit margins.

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Wisconsin Manufacturing Wages Declining

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 01 September 2016
in Wisconsin

manufacturingGreen Bay Manufacturing Wages Down by $2,197, Appleton by $1,971. Janesville-Beloit area leads march to the bottom with $6,555 decline since 2015.


STATEWIDE - Leading into Labor Day 2016, Citizen Action of Wisconsin released data today which shows dramatically declining wages for Wisconsin manufacturing workers in every metro area.

Citizen Action was joined on a media call this morning by State Senator Dave Hansen, WI AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale, State Representative LaTanya Johnson, and State Representative Evan Goyke. (audio recording here).

Earlier this week, Citizen Action of Wisconsin showed that the outsourcing Wisconsin jobs is continuing at an alarming rate.

Another impact of rigged global trade and state economic development programs shown dramatically in the data released today is shrinking wages for jobs that remain in Wisconsin.

“Labor Day weekend is a good time to focus on the fact that when Wisconsin workers are forced to compete with low wage countries, where the right to form unions is brutally suppressed, the jobs that stay here pay less and less,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin looked at the latest federal data, and found a startling decline in manufacturing wages in every Wisconsin metro area. Real wages (adjusted for inflation) are going down for manufacturing workers in every Wisconsin metro area. On average, annual wages declined $1,430 between 2010 and 2015.

Annual Average Wages for Manufacturing/Production Workers in Major Wisconsin Metropolitan Areas

Metro

2010

2015

Change since 2015

Wisconsin, Statewide

$37,880

$36,450

-$1,430

Appleton

$39,993

$38,022

-$1,971

Eau Claire

$34,688

$33,301

-$1,387

Fond du Lac

$34,960

$34,840

-$120

Green Bay

$38,452

$36,254

-$2,197

Janesville-Beloit

$41,853

$35,298

-$6,555

La Crosse-Onalaska

$36,275

$35,339

-$936

Madison

$38,089

$35,589

-$2,500

Milwaukee-Waukesha

$39,517

$38,480

-$1,037

Oshkosh-Neenah

$40,719

$37,378

-$3,341

Racine

$37,590

$35,880

-$1,710

Sheboygan

$39,472

$38,355

-$1,117

Wausau

$38,044

$35,693

-$2,351

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, inflation adjusted annual average wages in 2015 dollars)

“Declining wages may be good for multinational corporations who have no loyalty to any country, but they are a disaster for Wisconsin’s economy,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Declining wages damage small business because workers have less to spend at the local grocery store, supper club, coffee shop, and dry cleaner. The result is less employment, and a further drag on local economies.”

"People are feeling like they have less in their pockets, and this data proves they are right," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “When families are not able to put that kind of money into their pocket, the whole community suffers. Smaller paychecks not only impact the immediate family but the entire local economy."

"What would you do with an extra $1,034? That's the difference in Milwaukee for a manufacturing worker's wages from 2010 to now," said State Representative Evan Goyke. “Think of the places in your community you would spend that money, and the economic impact of taking that money out of the local economy.”

“We're seeing the state lead the way in a bad way, leading at having the largest drop in the middle class of all states, and the worst place to raise an African American child," said State Representative LaTonya Johnson. "We've seen communities lose manufacturing jobs, and go from middle class economics to places where families are forced to do without the basics.”

"We in the Legislature can and should make sure that the hard earned tax dollars of Wisconsin workers don't get funneled to companies that turn around and outsource Wisconsin jobs," said Senator Dave Hansen. "The bill we brought forth last session would ban companies that outsource jobs from receiving any state tax break, loan or grant for 5 years."

This data also directly challenges Governor Walker’s constant assertion that a co-called “skills gap” is the cause of Wisconsin’s economic woes. If manufacturers were really having problems finding skilled manufacturing workers, they would be raising wages, not lowering them.

The decline is further proof we need to stop rigging the economy by scrapping bad trade deals which stack the deck against workers and economic development policies that reward companies engaged in outsourcing and lowering the wages of their workers. Wisconsin needs bold new strategies to re-rig the economy in favor of workers.

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WEDC Misrepresentation of Jobs Impact in Sherman Park

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 23 August 2016
in Wisconsin

sherman-park-youthWEDC claimed to create 483 jobs in the economically depressed Sherman Park neighborhood, but all were actually in the suburbs. Neighborhoods in economic distress need job creation strategies at the scale of the problem.


MILWAUKEE - At a news event in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park Neighborhood today elected officials and community leaders spoke out about revelations that the jobs agency created by Governor Walker, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), misrepresented its impact on jobs in the area.

Speakers at the event included elected officials such as State Representative LaTonya Johnson, State Representative Evan Goyke, State Representative David Bowen, and Alderman Chevy Johnson. The event also included community leaders such as Reverend Willie Brisco, President of WISDOM, and Martha De La Rosa, Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin revealed late last week that WEDC claimed only to create 483 jobs in the economically depressed Sherman Park neighborhood, the scene of civil unrest ten days ago. However, Citizen Action research discovered that the small number of jobs claimed by the WEDC were not created in Sherman Park, but in exurbs like Hartland.

WEDC CEO David Hogan responded to Citizen Action’s research today, but admits that WEDC’s impact map inaccurately attributed jobs to Sherman Park that were created in other areas such as western Waukesha County. Hogan said in his response: “When the physical address data cannot be precisely plotted, such as when a P.O. Box is provided, the system generates an approximate location. That is what happened with the companies identified by Citizen Action.” This statement constitutes an admission that WEDC does not even have accurate records of where its tax credits, loans, and grants are supposedly creating jobs. In one case the jobs were created 25 miles to the west in Harland. The response suggests that this was only a problem with an impact map on the website, but in fact WEDC’s written profile of what jobs were supposedly created in Assembly District 18 contains the same errors.

The Sherman Park neighborhood and other communities in Milwaukee’s urban core have borne the brunt of the outsourcing and deindustrialization that has taken place since the 1970s. WEDC actually claims to have created more jobs in up scale Waukesha County than in Milwaukee County, despite the much greater need for expanded opportunity.

WEDC’s inability to track the locations of the jobs it claims to create is a symptom of a bankrupt economic strategy. It is clear that Sherman Park and other economically devastated areas like it have been abandoned by Governor Walker’s failed economic policies. Now that the dust has settled in Sherman Park, we need public interventions at the scale necessary to truly guarantee full opportunity for everyone in our great state.

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We Need to Get Serious About Equal Economic Opportunity in Milwaukee

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 18 August 2016
in Wisconsin

milw-riot-2016MILWAUKEE - Over the weekend, another young black man lost his life and civil unrest exploded in MIlwaukee.

Our hearts go out to all the residents of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood who have experienced this weekend’s civil unrest, to the family of the young man who lost his life, and to the peace officers who have put their lives on the line to protect public safety. As public order is restored, it is important we take stock of what happened, and what we have to do together to create a Wisconsin where everyone has an equal chance to live a fulfilling life.

Although the violence and property destruction seemed spontaneous to outsiders, for many African American residents it was a predictable outpouring of frustration flowing from unbearable racial inequality and exclusion. Shocking statistics support this, as the Milwaukee metro area has for many years consistently ranked among the worst in the country for African Americans across a variety of indicators including, segregation, incarceration rates, black male nonemployment, child poverty, and many others.

African Americans in Milwaukee, who came during the Great Migration to work and work hard and claim their piece of the American Dream, where drawn by the plentiful opportunities to work in union manufacturing jobs. They have borne the brunt of deindustrialization since the late 1970s. According to the UWM Center for Economic Development, the percentage of African Americans working in manufacturing declined from 54.3% in 1970 to 14.7% in 2009.

Many leaders in the Milwaukee area seem to see this as a natural phenomenon beyond our control. But the economy is not a natural disaster or an extreme weather event beyond our agency to influence, it is human made. What has been lacking in Milwaukee is the courage and vision to fight for solutions up to the scale of the problem. Once the dust is settled in Sherman Park, the question will be which public officials, which community leaders, which corporate leaders are willing to stand up and fight for public interventions at the scale necessary to end Wisconsin’s system of economic apartheid and truly guarantee full opportunity for everyone in our great state. This means striving to create an economy where everyone who wants a good jobs can find one near their local community.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin and our over 12,000 members in the Milwaukee area look forward to continuing to work with everyone in the community who wants to work toward economic and social transformation.

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